Eliot Spitzer is out and CNN is doubling down on hard news and Anderson Cooper.
The cable news network announced July 6 that it will reshuffle its prime time lineup (again), making Anderson Cooper 360 its flagship program with a move to 8 pm/ET (plus a second airing at its current 10 pm/ET time slot), starting August 8.
Cooper replaces In the Arena, the roundtable discussion show that was built from the ashes of Parker Spitzer. Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor-turned-cable pundit, has been offered a contributing role at CNN but has not yet accepted.
CNN will also add an hour newscast that features its newest hire, Erin Burnett, at 7 pm/ET Burnett was popular with the business crowd who tuned in to her at CNBC, but her new program, set to launch in September, will have a general news focus. When she arrives, John King USA moves to 6 pm/ET while The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer will run from 4 pm/ET to 6 pm/ET Piers Morgan Tonight remains at 9 pm/ET with a repeat at midnight.
"It underscores a commitment to quality journalism," Ken Jautz, executive vice president CNN/U.S. tells TV Guide Magazine of the moves. "The shows not only provide reporting but have a view based on their reporting."
Jautz says Cooper's program has become much more than a straight newscast, with its "Keeping Them Honest" segments and deeper analysis on issues the anchor takes on (often breaking down false or outrageous statements made by politicians). "The show has much more of a point of view than it did before," he adds. "It's become much more energetic and edgy." Jautz says he believes Cooper could be a real alternative to Fox News, MSNBC and now Keith Olbermann on Current TV, which have a more politically partisan bent.
CNN will update the repeats of Anderson Cooper 360 and Erin Burnett's new program in the event of breaking news stories that extend into the night. "They will be freshened up whenever events warrant," says Jautz.
Spitzer's original program, Parker Spitzer, was an attempt by CNN to tap into the popularity of political debate on cable in prime time, as evidenced by the success of The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity on Fox News Channel and the progressive lineup of hosts on MSNBC. But Parker Spitzer did little in the way of generating ratings or buzz for CNN, even after the network blew up the program, got rid of Kathleen Parker, and built the show around Spitzer. It was typically the lowest-rated cable news program of the night. Jautz did not want to discuss why Spitzer didn't click with the CNN audience except to say, "We think we can do better."
CNN has shown some ratings improvement this year, especially during coverage of major international stories like the uprising in Egypt and the killing of Osama bin Laden. But it still lags behind Fox News Channel. It was up 15 percent in prime time during the second quarter, averaging 685,000 viewers. Fox News Channel was the cable news leader with 1.8 million viewers, while MSNBC averaged 798,000 viewers.
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